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The hottest action for inshore anglers continues to be on speckled trout and flounder. Specks are pretty much a morning catch. They are staging runs after sunrise on the piers, in the surf and around the creeks. You won’t stay on them for very long, however, as they will turn off once the sun gets high in the sky.
The best method for these summer trout continues to be fishing live shrimp under a float. You can catch them other ways, but sometimes not as well and sometimes not at all. Anglers fishing the surf won’t have the luxury of using a float rig but they can cast MirrOlures to the morning trout or fish live finger mullet on the bottom.
Flounder fishing has heated up enough so that we can call the season at least average so far. Local inlets and creeks are producing decent numbers of fish, and there are flounder being caught in the surf and on the piers. Unlike specks, which are best targeted with live shrimp in hot weather, flounder can be caught in a number of ways throughout the summer.
My absolute favorite flounder bait is a frisky finger mullet, and fishing one on the bottom will also entice any drum, bluefish or specks that wander by your rig. Finger mullet really put on a show on a light bottom rig as long as you don’t attach a ton of lead.
Mullet, however, are just one good baitfish for use if you want to catch flounder. You can also use mud minnows, whose biggest virtue is they are available from stores for those who can’t or don’t have time to throw a cast net. Sparkled and spangled mud minnows you catch in your net in the creeks, however, are even better than the store-bought varieties.
Other great flounder baits are small pinfish (roaming specks will nail pinfish readily) as well as little spots and pogies (small menhaden). Pogies won’t live long, in the bait bucket or on the hook, but flounder love them.
If you don’t have live bait, you can employ strip bait or artificial lures for flounder. Fresh cut bait strips are good, but soft baits have come so far in terms of appearance, scent and ease of use they may be a better alternative. If you are in a boat running from dock to dock seeking flounder, artificial bait strips on a jig head are a great way to fish.
Bottom-fishermen on the pier won’t find much action in the heat of the day (there won’t be mush inside around the bridges either). But during the morning hours and just before sunset right through the night, you can still catch sea mullet (whiting) and black drum. Black drum catches have been strong lately, though that seems to always be the case with that dependable fish.
In the surf, the best bet for bottom-fishermen now are the pompano. You can use fresh cut shrimp or, even better, sand fleas that are readily available on our beaches right now. Live sand fleas right in or just behind the whitewater are the best bait for pompano, and if you have the pregnant sand fleas with the orange roe on gold hooks, you are giving yourself every advantage.
Even if you aren’t getting a lot of bites summer bottom-fishing, resist the temptation to use a big glob of bait. Small pieces of cut shrimp, squid and bloodworms are most effective fished on No. 4 or No. 6 hooks.
Redfish are still around, lumbering slowly through the hot summer water. You can catch them on slowly fished lures, but live finger mullet are the best bait for them. Hook the mullet just above the eye sockets with 1/0 or larger hooks. Redfish will also hit fresh cut bait in the surf at night, although so will the many sharks in the water right now.
Speaking of sharks, there’s no better season to go shark fishing if you get into that kind of thing. Just remember to read up on the complex rules regarding sharks if you want to target them, and to find out whether shark fishing is allowed if you try it from a pier.
Out on the ends of the piers and for boaters wishing to avoid strong offshore winds, there is still a chance to pick up bluefish and Spanish mackerel on plugs, although as with the trout that action will be best before it gets too hot.
Early morning specks and flounder throughout the day will be the best for a while, until the cool autumn winds blow in the spot runs and stir all fish into their autumn feeding moods. Plan on fishing early and late, and use live bait if you can. Fish are a little sluggish in the heat, like we are, but they are still out there and you can still put some tasty specks and flounder on ice for a nice, fresh summer seafood dinner.